In a world where there are constant examples of disrespect in words and actions that is fed to us in entertainment, social media, and community leaders, it is becoming more difficult each year to find worthy examples of respect for our children and ourselves. Respect is the most common virtue that parents want to see from their children and so we want to understand and identify what it looks like in our family and society.
Respect, like all virtues, crosses all cultural barriers as a way of showing others that we value them. However, like all virtues what it looks like, how it is seen demonstrated is different in every culture. For individuals, families, institutions like school or churches, or in national societies, what is seen as respect in one may very well be different in another.
In my family, one way that we have established as showing respect for each family member is by never leaving the house without telling both children and adults that we are going and when we expect to return. In other families that may not be as important as another way of showing respect to each other.
Once we identify what respect looks like in our family, everyone in the family must be held accountable for demonstrating this virtue in the way it is decided on to be shown. Otherwise, our children will feel like they are being singled out for particular rules that do not apply to the adults. To demonstrate this further, if you would like for your children to understand that respectful language includes not yelling or cursing, then as the parent we must be careful not to scream or curse.
Children will follow our example much faster than the instructions we give them with words. They want to grow up, be an adult and do what adults do and they learn what that looks like primarily from parents and also what they see in the world around them. How do we find and draw respect out of our children?
To begin we establish what it looks like for our family. Are we helpful to each other? Then we can say we show respect in our family by helping each other and sharing the responsibilities in the home. Is respect the use of courteous words and manners? Then we establish the behaviors that we would like to see as ‘respectful’ and call on ourselves and them to use polite words. Instead of saying “what do we say?” when it would be courteous to say thank you, we ask them “How do we show respect when someone gives us a gift?” Now we are guiding them to connect respect with courteous words and manners and not just saying the words that please the parents.
In all of this though as leaders in the family we are going to set the example by following what we have established as our family’s way of showing respect. There are other aspects of respect that are equally important. We will discuss them as the month continues including, respect for ourselves, property and environment as well as for those around us that have different cultures and ways of showing respect.
Take some time this month to discuss as a family what respect looks like in your family. Agree to practice respect in those ways with each other and those outside the household. Doing so will develop the virtue of respect for each family member and your family will be known for respect.